Howard Backs Morrison Rules, Rubbishes Liberal 'Split' Talk

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull is still swinging, accusing his former colleagues of "ignorance" as the question of leadership again rears its head among Liberal politicians.

But the latest regime under new Prime Minister Scott Morrison has got the backing of party elder John Howard, who on Tuesday rubbished the idea the Liberal Party could end up fracturing.

"Whoever is putting that around doesn't understand Australian politics and the Liberal Party," Howard told 10 News First on Tuesday.

"The Liberal Party will not be splitting, it will continue to be the centrepiece of centre-right politics in Australia.

"People who are running around talking stupidly about splits should go back to political school and learn some fundamentals."
Former prime minister John Howard and Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the opening of the University of NSW Howard Library at Old Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 4, 2018. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Morrison called a surprise party meeting on Monday night to ask his colleagues to back a plan which would help protect leaders from backroom coups and backstabbing -- the type that saw Turnbull axed and Morrison himself installed as Liberal leader and PM just three months ago.

The new rules, as agreed by the party, would require two-thirds of the team to agree to a leader being dumped, which Morrison said would ensure an elected PM "will remain Prime Minister for that full parliamentary term."

"Australians have the very reasonable expectation that when they elect a government, when they elect a Prime Minister, then they should be the ones that determine if that Prime Minister is to not continue in that office," Morrison said in a hastily-organised press conference on Monday night.

"We understand, our entire Party, the frustration and the disappointment that Australians have felt when governments and prime ministers that they have elected under their authority, under their power, has been taken from them with the actions of politicians here in Canberra."

Howard said he supported the idea.

Howard speaks to 10 News First

"It's a sensible change considering the history of the last five years," he said, referring to the revolving door of PMs since he left office in 2007.

It comes as the Coalition still reels from the fallout over the Turnbull axing, which has been blamed as a huge factor in the Liberals both losing the Wentworth by-election and being hammered in the Victorian state election.

The major voting overhaul also comes in a week where Morrison's fresh leadership is facing its toughest test yet, having to deal with the threat of Craig Kelly quitting the party just days after Julia Banks did the same.

Morrison, installed as something of a compromise candidate between Turnbull and Peter Dutton in the August leadership spill, has been slammed for a series of poor received decisions since taking office -- from a surprise call to move the Australian embassy in Israel, to a strange collection of social media videos, and his over-reliance on 'fair dinkum' Aussie vernacular.

Former Liberal leader John Hewson added to the criticisms on Tuesday.

Turnbull has also been a constant thorn in Morrison's side, and just this week alone has called for Morrison to go to an early election, dared Kelly to quit, and on Tuesday slammed the Coalition for being "ignorant" on climate and energy policy.

"You won't get investment if people see an investment climate which is uncertain and racked with controversy," Turnbull told a Sydney renewable energy conference.

"I know there are people who want to keep on fighting about energy. I tell you I think the electorate is fed up with it."

(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Turnbull said ordinary voters were "screaming out" for reform. He slammed what he saw as "ideology and ignorance" shaping discussion inside the Coalition, which had led to "an impasse" in the debate.

Howard also had some words for those worried about the seemingly constant turmoil in federal politics, claiming things were no worse today than when he entered politics in the 1970s.

"It seems to ebb and flow. You've got to stand back and put every series of current events in context," he told 10 News First.

"The idea we're going through an unprecedented level of turmoil is wrong."